Jazz fusion is usually played with instruments, without singing. The songs are often longer than those in pop music. A jazz fusion song could be five to ten minutes long. A pop song is usually about three minutes long. Also, jazz fusion songs have a long solo played by instruments. Frank Zappa, for example, had long guitar solos in his music, which was of the jazz fusion genre. In jazz fusion, solos are improvised, or made up as they are played, during a performance.
Jazz fusion music is not heard much on the radio in the United States or Canada. In Europe, it is more popular on radio stations.
Jazz fusion began in the late 1960s in the United States. In the late 1960s jazz musicians such as Miles Davis and a band called The Tony Williams Lifetime began using electric instruments such as electric bass and electric piano in their jazz music. As well, jazz musicians began adding rhythms or beats from soul music, rhythm and blues, and rock music into their jazz music. Two important jazz fusion albums are In a Silent Way and Bitches Brew.
In the 1970s, more people began playing jazz fusion. It became more popular, so more people began listening to jazz fusion and going to jazz fusion concerts. In the 1970s, jazz musicians such as Herbie Hancock, Joe Zawinul, Jan Hammer and Chick Corea began using electronic synthesizers in their songs.
In the early 1980s, a new style of jazz fusion called "pop fusion" began being played. This new style of pop fusion was softer and slower than fusion from the early 1970s. Pop fusion was played a lot more on the radio than the fusion from the early 1970s. Pop fusion musicians include Lee Ritenour, Al Jarreau, Kenny G, Bob James and David Sanborn. Steve Vai was an icon of jazz fusion in the 1980s and played extensive guitar based jazz fusion instrumentals.